affects the heart
I take my imagination
and it flutters
into the open
venue of ozone
where it might
like red madder
on cerulean does
when not mixed
in the brush
I make stuff up
I believe it
like a fool
in the mirror
where a stranger
in obvious state
And I know,
as I lift
a timid finger
to the winged
To Go Out or Not to Go Out, that is the Question
One Thursday after work I dropped by a local “Cheers” type tavern that I used to frequent (I am a notoriously reluctant cook) for some chicken tenders and the Hornets game, none of which was as easy as it sounds, as I was landscaping back in those days, meaning I had to go home, shower the grass clippings and fertilizer off, re-dress, and go back out when I’d just gotten off work at 6:30pm and had to be back at the shop in the morning at 5:30am.
TJ’s, in Pineville, NC is… or maybe was… a truly great, if fairly typical, watering hole; small enough to seem intimate, friendly waitresses, good food, pool tables, darts, and TV’s… you know the place. Barely awake, I was washing my fries down with a cold beer when the waitress brought me another one, along with a note on a napkin, “Boring game. When is someone going to score a touchdown?” (It was a basketball game.)
There weren’t a ton of people in TJ’s that night, and many were coupled up. I was able to narrow the possibilities down to three or four suspects, but none seemed to be paying me any mind. Now, as I stated earlier, I came to TJ’s for dinner quite often, and I knew my waitress Allison pretty well. Well enough that she didn’t hesitate when I asked her which one sent the note. ”That one, up there.” She even pointed, to my embarrassment.
The woman was sitting with a friend. She was obviously a little older than my twenty-six years and was dressed as though she had some money (and probably a husband), but this was not my first rodeo with that type, so I asked Allison for a pen anyways and, being more a reader than a writer, I quoted some old, remembered poetry on the same napkin she had used and sent it back via it’s original courier.
Perhaps I could stick around a little longer.
Being a bit flushed for shyness, the woman was soon at my table. “Did you write that?”
Ahhh, a quandary. Technically I did write it “down”, but? So I smiled instead of lying. “That was Shakespeare.” She returned my smile, and sat without invitation. She ordered another round, and waved her friend over so that they could both pepper me with questions. It was soon 10:30, the ballgame on TV was over, my eyes were heavy, my 4:00am wake up alarm getting closer, and closer.
”I have a boyfriend,” she said.
I was also “sort of” seeing someone. “O.k.”
She leaned over the table then and kissed me. It was a really long… really, really nice kiss. It was such a long, nice kiss that I had the feeling her “boyfriend” might be on the way out.
We are married now. I am telling this story because today is Pooky-Bear’s and my 24th wedding anniversary. That simple decision to go have dinner and watch the ballgame changed my life forever for the better.
There is a simple morale to my story. If the choice is to stay home, or to go out? Always go out. You never know what wonderful things might happen.
How mind-boggling that the tiny vibration of a butterfly’s wings flapping might ripple the air like the water when you throw a pebble in a lake, such that the air currents form a storm somewhere far away from the flitting and flying from flower to flower.
It seems to me the smallest event that has a profound impact on every life is the one that got us all here: What if a different spermatozoon beat out all the others and fertilized the awaiting ova? You wouldn’t be you. I wouldn’t be me.
Each ejaculation of a healthy male contains 40 million to 600 million spermatozoa. They are so minuscule they can only be seen with a microscope. If any one of the other millions combined with the awaiting ova, a different human would have developed.
You exist because that one little plasma membrane’s tail swished a little harder, a little faster than the rest and the head burrowed safely into the ova, merging and creating, you.
Now that, is mind boggling.
when i was about six i did a presentation
up in front of the class with a sort-of-friend
he had red henna in his hair
or maybe that hadn't happened yet
i was always annoyed by him
the fact that he was ahead of me in reading
i didn't know, standing next to him
that we came from similar places
that we were different to the other kids
who watched as we attempted to bow
the back of his head collided with my eye
that decision to bow in front of our class
to make the other kids laugh
put us in the office with a bruise and a black eye
two ice packs and excessive complaining
11 years and several more concussions later
my eyes are damaged once again
from excessive scrubbing at one in the morning
after screaming our guts out at a stage
in the city, a two hour train trip out of town
we stumbled home with our arms around each other
sitting on the floor of the train compartment
laughing despite our shattered throats
red stars in our eyes that only blinked to the other
this is a different kind of butterfly effect
in the way we emerged from our harsh chrysalis
and watched each other change
It's a dreary British afternoon, the air chilly, the trees whispering to the wind.
I sit, a vial in my hand, look to the sky, my stupid practical work taking far longer than I've expected, and wish to be anywhere else but now.
The long walk home, alone. My classmates already disappeared after this hopeless afternoon. My spirits are low as I arrive at school and drop off my equipment, no one else in sight.
But wait - who are those people, chatting ahead of me?
I run, I dash across the stones and say hello.
She catches my eye, conversation bubbles up and suddenly we have split from the rest of the group. Just me and her. Where are you from? What's your name? Where are you going to?
We split our separate ways with a smile and a wave and an exchange of numbers that tumbles over to the next few days and weeks and maybe months and years, and all of a sudden, I'm no longer so upset about that stupid practical that took me so long to complete.
The Butterfly Effect
The teenage years are often referred to as the best years of your life, and while that may be true, I won't know for sure until I'm older. However, in my experience, the teenage years are one of the most challenging periods in life. As difficult as this stage of my life has been, I am still grateful for each and every mistake I made along the way. I’ve learned so many things, and though it was painful at the time, it has prepared me for my future. It’s made me who I am.
It can be challenging for me at times to be thankful for the teenage years I have left to live, and there are times when I even wish I could skip ahead in time. But I've come to the conclusion that perhaps this struggle is for the best. It's a time of grace when I can make mistakes without suffering as many repercussions. I am forced to adjust to my newfound freedom.
I can fail and still learn from my errors without causing too much harm. In the end, I'm grateful for all of the mistakes I've made, even though they've caused me to experience heartbreak, fail classes, and miss out on career possibilities. The toxic friendships, fake friends, and academic failures taught me something. Despite being at the bottom, that is what will enable me to progress.
I have a part-time job that is ideal for me because it is close to my house, and I get along well with my coworkers. The fact is, I was hired for this position as a result of mistakes I made. I hadn't realized I didn't fit the age restriction when I first applied for another job. I was very disappointed, but if I hadn't messed up and gone to the interview, I never would have learned about my current job, which was a better fit for me and paid more.
I have a wonderful girlfriend who I adore dearly, and I doubt that I would be with her if I hadn't been in a previous relationship and experienced a broken heart. I dated my present girlfriend for a while; however, our relationship ended in a breakup. I eventually moved on to another relationship, but when I discovered she was having an affair with someone we both knew, my heart was devastated. Because our mutual friend had a crush on her, I ended up getting back in touch with my ex because I wanted to talk to her and make sure she knew what our friend had done. We eventually went out as friends, but it made us realize that we still had feelings for one another, so we got back together.
If I look back on all of the mistakes I’ve made and the things I suffered through, I can see a butterfly effect. Each of these things led to something wonderful happening, reconnecting with my girlfriend, getting a good job, and getting into an amazing early college high school. All of these things wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t made mistakes along the way. Even though it doesn’t feel good, I will forever be thankful for the suffering I’ve gone through in my teenage years.
A Fluttered Future
I feel that life is a series of butterfly effects. The mystical butterfly that creates these effects is a unique species known as Possibility. Now, when Possibility flutters her wings it creates a ripple effect of all that can be, should be, desired to be, or will be in a person's life. Possibility's wings can be magnificently, peacefully, beautiful. Conversely, Possibility's wings can also create ripple that are dark, ugly, and marbled with chaos' ever threatening lightening storms. Most of us will experience an intertwined combination of Possibility's beauty laden ripples and it's dark, frothing ripples. Each flutter of Possibilities wings will create ripples in the surface of who we are. As these ripples reach their terminus, Possibility will flutter her wings again and a new ripple of all that can be, should be, or will be in a person's life is created.
The ripples created by the movement of Possibilities wings will often intersect with the ripples belonging to other souls. These meetings may lead to a whole new flutter of Possibility's wings which in turn creates comingled ripples. The ripples may also compete against each other striving to be the dominant current. The winner may succeed in pinning Possibility's wings to her side, robbing the loser of the chance to experience new ripples. It could also manage to stifle her or restrict her ability to fully extend her wings so that only the smallest ripples can be created, limiting the impact of all that can be, should be, or will be for the loser.
For me, the ripples of my parents comingled, but not in a positive way. The combining of ripples with my parents experience was closer to cancer cells replicating to create a tumor. As a result, I inherited the weights of mental illness, anger, and self-hatred which weighed down Possibility's wings. No ripples were created for me. Instead, I was caught in the chaotic ripples of my mom's mental illness', bad choices, and contentment to live in poverty. During those rare times when I was cast away from the flotsam and jetsam of her sickly ripples, I found myself floundering in the ripples of peers who found satisfaction in beating Possibility in front of me. Disabled, "You can't play with us because you're a cripple." Disabled, "You're a special ed case. Stay away we don't want to catch your stupid." Poor, "Your clothes are old and dirty." I was about 10 years old when I became caught in the ripples of a teacher. For the first time ever, Possibility's wings were able to flutter just a little. Though small, shaky, and uncertain, these ripples were my own and maybe, the next flutter would be stronger.
Possibility's wings did grow stronger, but were still weighed down by my mental illness, lack of self worth, and weak sense of where the next ripples may lead. In the darkness, I decided to end my ripples and send Possibility away. Once again, the ripples of others saved me and Possibility's wings grew a bit lighter.
Now, it must be noted that Possibility need not point in one direction. She can move and does so to shift her foundation, to give her wings the chance to flutter in a changing wind. The dark ripples of my life must have been displeasing to Possibility because she shifted directions just a bit. Though the foul ripples remained, they added a push and then faded into clearer, stronger ripples. The ripples of abuse, poverty, mental illness, and cruelty flowed into and strengthened ripples of kindness, diligence, passion, and because of the slight brush against the ripples of compassion I encountered from others, a desire to give back.
The next flutter of Possibility created strong ripples of healing, a hunger for knowledge, and a desire to terminate the ripples of addiction in others. These ripples led to another flutter which led to a degree in substance abuse counseling. From here, flutters led me to finish college and towards a career helping others. Possibility's wings may not always create crystal clear ripples and sometimes the ripples it creates may become a bit dark. Still, there is always another soul's ripple out there that if brushed against can make Possibility shift just enough to send future ripples in a better direction.
It was my fault, you see.
He asked permission to leave.
It was my turn to "babysit."
And although I generally included our baby brother, never getting embarrassed of him when I was with my girlfriends, I just wanted a night to myself.
I simply said, "go ahead!"
He didn't need to wait for me.
It was my turn to live a little.
And even as I was saying it a little too gruffly, he giggled and smiled because he had the answer he wanted and would have left anyway but under a huff.
That huff would take time.
He'd have left a few minutes later.
It was my choice to not argue.
And he loved a good argument, especially if he could turn it back on you to make it make sense for whatever he wanted in that moment and without regret.
He didn't do regret; how strange that he is mine.
Butterflies and Such
Loose things are jettisoned around the world
When our planet turns this way and that
And they are carried, acrobatically whirled
Because this Earth ain't flat.
Butterflies flapping their wings
Is the first domino to fall
And makes the fronts and temperature swings
And the troughs and thunderheads tall
Dusty was a mote of note,
Awaft like a boat on a sunbeam;
He knew not where to float—
And was carried willy-nilly downstream.
The sunlight carried him on a shaft,
A bright ray across the ocean;
He breezed by, airborne, in a draft,
Carrying other motes aloft in motion.
“Hola,” said one mote who flew,
“My proper name is Smidgen;
“I came all the way from Lima, Peru,
In the dander of a pigeon.”
“Oy!” another mote said his way;
“Everyone calls me Speck;
An old Greek scratched his neck all day,
We floated off—me and my pal, Fleck.”
“Ciao,” said bambino mote, Scintilla.
“I’ve drifted with the changing weather;
I came in lint from a Roman villa
With fluff, some dirt, and a feather.”
“Bonjour, je m’appelle Soupçon,” one said with flair.
“I’ve blown this way from Paris, France;
I began my trip and took to the air
When Messier shook out his pants.”
“Yo, I’m here, too,” said little Trace—
“Got here by way of Beijing,
I’ve been here, there, all over the place—
But you’d hardly know by looking.”
“I came in with the flower’s pollen,”
Said L’il Bit hovering softly.
I came in with the things a’crawlin’,
Slithering, and creeping awfully.”
“I’m just called Squinch, much less than a pinch,”
Achooed a little puff o’pepper.
“I make folks sniff and cough and sneeze
Until they say they’re better.”
“I come from a sweater,” is what Shred said,
“Untied from wear and tear;
I used to be longer before I shed,
And now it’s gone threadbare.”
“I’m just a small portion,” said Modicum, so carefree,
“I’m making a symbolic debut.
They say common sense could use some of me
Respect, kindness, and decency, too!”
Booger’s my name and I’m a smudge;
That got flung from a finger in Tonga.
But mucus is sticky and doesn’t budge
Watch out I might get on ya!”
Then the mote named Morsel
Floated by and by,
“I’m just a crumb, off a cereal parcel
When its boxing went awry.
The dollop named Dab glopped on the floor
And filched us all there with him:
Booger and me and Smidgen and more
Joined the dust bunny in the kitchen.
Bunny and we rolled to a corner
Happily in our demeanor
And waited for our next ride
Inside a vacuum cleaner.
But please don’t worry about the fate
I share with Sparkle, Tinge, and L’il Bit.
Soon we’ll be back out and recreate
More dust, from afar, so wait for it.
“Aloha,” said Iota, who said we oughta
Listen up—there’s a lot to learn:
“The afternoon means rain and water
And you might end up in an urn.”
NOTE: I originally wrote this as a children's rhyme for my grandchildren.